troubleshooting problems

Having trouble with rsyslog? This page provides some tips on where to look for help and what to do if you need to ask for assistance. This page is continuously being expanded.

Useful troubleshooting resources are:

  • The rsyslog documentation - note that the online version always covers the most recent development version. However, there is a version-specific doc set in each tarball. If you installed rsyslog from a package, there usually is a rsyslog-doc package, that often needs to be installed separately.

  • Check the rsyslog github issue tracker and the bugzilla to see if your problem is a known (and even fixed ;)) bug. Note: the preferred way to create new bugs is via github. The bugzilla does no longer accept new bugs. It is just kept to work on old ones and as a reference source for ChangeLog entries.

Malformed Messages and Message Properties

A common trouble source are ill-formed syslog messages, which lead to to all sorts of interesting problems, including malformed hostnames and dates. Read the quoted guide to find relief. A common symptom is that the %HOSTNAME% property is used for generating dynafile names, but some gibberish shows up. This is caused by the malformed syslog messages, so be sure to read the guide on syslog parsing if you face that problem. Just let me add that the common work-around is to use %FROMHOST% or %FROMHOST-IP% instead. These do not take the hostname from the message, but rather use the host that sent the message (taken from the socket layer). Of course, this does not work over NAT or relay chains, where the only cure is to make sure senders emit well-formed messages.

Configuration Problems

Rsyslog has support for configuration checking. It offers a special command line switch (-N<value>) that puts it into “config verification mode”. In that mode, it interprets and checks the configuration file, but does not startup. This mode can be used in parallel to a running instance of rsyslogd.

Please note that many distros have (unfortunately) begun to split the rsyslog config into many small config snippets (a.k.a input files), usually in /etc/rsyslog.d. From rsyslog’s point of view, only a single config file exists and these snippets are logically combined into that single config. For that reason, config checking does usually not work on snippets. Because the interdependencies are missing. For example, binding a ruleset to a module that is not possible if the ruleset is loaded outside of the snippet.

As a general guideline, never do config checks on config snippets. Always use the main configuration file as a starting point (usually /etc/rsyslog.conf`).

The value given after -N is a set of binary values. Currently, there only is




turn on config checking


permit checking of include files

Where 2 automatically turns on config checking mode, if not given. In that sense -N2 and -N3 are equivalent.

Values other than given in the table above are not supported and may lead to unpredictable results.

When set to check include files, some conditions are relaxed. For example, rsyslog usually requires that at least one action is defined somewhere in the configuration. For obvious reasons, it would not make much sense to run an instance without any action. However, when an include file is checked, it may happen that it contains no actions as all. As such, the requirement to include one action has been lifted in include file checking.

To check a full rsyslog configuration, run rsyslog interactively as follows:

$ /path/to/rsyslogd -f/path/to/config-file -N1

You should also specify other options you usually give. Any problems experienced are reported to stderr [aka “your screen” (if not redirected)].

If you would like to check just an include file, instead use:

$ /path/to/rsyslogd -f/path/to/config-file -N3

Sometimes problems are rooted in config include files, and especially the order in which they are processed. To troubleshoot these kinds of issues, you can use the rsyslogd -o option: it permits to specify a file that shall receive a full copy of rsyslog’s current configuration as rsyslog sees it. This means all include file content is directly inside that file at exactly the spot where rsyslog sees it. The output file is almost a verbatim copy of the original full rsyslog config. For troubleshooting purposes it additionally contains comment lines that indicate where content from specific include files begins and ends. The include file is correctly named in these comments.

This option can be used together with -N. Again, it is best to run rsyslog interactively. Do as such:

$ /path/to/rsyslogd -f/path/to/config-file -N3 -o /path/to/full-conf-file

Checking Connection Problems

If a client cannot connect via the network to the rsyslog server, you can do a connection check via netcat. That will verify if the sender is able to deliver to an application running on the receiver. Netcat is a very simple receiver, so we can be sure that no netcat problem will interfere with this test.

With netcat, you can test UDP and TCP syslog connections, but not TLS.

To do this test, you need to

  • on the client

    • stop the syslog sender process, if possible. If the sender is rsyslog, you can use the same procedure described below for the server.

  • on the rsyslog server

    • stop and/or disable rsyslog On systemd systems (newer distro versions), systemd might automatically restart rsyslog when data is written to the system log socket. To be sure, we recommend to disable the service on those systems. This sequence should work: $ systemctl disable rsyslog.service $ systemctl stop rsyslog.service

    • open a terminal session, and start a netcat listener on the same listening port that you have configured inside rsyslog. Note that if you use a privileged port, you need to execute nc as root. We assume port 13515 is used for rsyslog, so do this: $ nc -k -l <ip-of-server> 13515 # [FOR TCP] OR sudo nc … $ nc -u -l <ip-of-server> 13515 # [FOR UDP] OR sudo nc …

  • on the syslog client

    • send a test message via netcat: $ echo “test message 1” | nc <ip-of-server> 13515 # [FOR TCP] $ echo “test message 1” | nc <ip-of-server> 13515 # [FOR UDP]

  • on the server

    • check if you received the test message. Note that you might also have received additional messages if the original sender process was not stopped. If you see garbage, most probably some sender tries to send via TLS.

    • you can stop nc by <ctl>-c

If you did not see the test message arrive at the central server, the problem is most probably rooted in the network configuration or other parts of the system configuration. Things to check are - firewall settings

  • for UDP: does the sender have a route back to the original sender? This is often required by modern systems to prevent spoofing; if the sender cannot be reached, UDP messages are discarded AFTER they have been received by the OS (an app like netcat or rsyslog will never see them)

  • if that doesn’t help, use a network monitor (or tcpdump, Wireshark, …) to verify that the network packet at least reaches the system.

If you saw the test message arrive at the central server, the problem most probably is related to the rsyslog configuration or the system configuration that affects rsyslog (SELinux, AppArmor, …).

A good next test is to run rsyslog interactively, just like you did with netcat:

  • on the server - make sure the rsyslog service is still stopped

    • run $ sudo /usr/sbin/rsyslogd -n

  • on the client

    • send a test message

  • on the server - check if the message arrived

    • terminate rsyslog by pressing <ctl>-c

If the test message arrived, you definitely have a problem with the system configuration, most probably in SELinux, AppArmor or a similar subsystem. Note that your interactive security context is quite different from the rsyslog system service context.

If the test message did not arrive, it is time to generate a debug log to see exactly what rsyslog does. A full description is in this file a bit down below, but in essence you need to do

  • on the server - make sure the rsyslog service is still stopped - run

    $ sudo /usr/sbin/rsyslogd -nd 2> rsyslog-debug.log

  • on the client - send a test message

  • on the server - stop rsyslog by pressing <ctl>- - review debug log

Asking for Help

If you can’t find the answer yourself, you should look at these places for community help.

  • The rsyslog mailing list. This is a low-volume list which occasional gets traffic spikes. The mailing list is probably a good place for complex questions. This is the preferred method of obtaining support.

  • The rsyslog forum.

Debug Log

If you ask for help, there are chances that we need to ask for an rsyslog debug log. The debug log is a detailed report of what rsyslog does during processing. As such, it may even be useful for your very own troubleshooting. People have seen things inside their debug log that enabled them to find problems they did not see before. So having a look at the debug log, even before asking for help, may be useful.

Note that the debug log contains most of those things we consider useful. This is a lot of information, but may still be too few. So it sometimes may happen that you will be asked to run a specific version which has additional debug output. Also, we revise from time to time what is worth putting into the standard debug log. As such, log content may change from version to version. We do not guarantee any specific debug log contents, so do not rely on that. The amount of debug logging can also be controlled via some environment options. Please see debugging support for further details.

In general, it is advisable to run rsyslogd in the foreground to obtain the log. To do so, make sure you know which options are usually used when you start rsyslogd as a background daemon. Let’s assume “-c5” is the only option used. Then, do the following:

  • make sure rsyslogd as a daemon is stopped (verify with ps -ef|grep rsyslogd)

  • make sure you have a console session with root permissions

  • run rsyslogd interactively: `/sbin/rsyslogd ..your options.. -dn > logfile` where “your options” is what you usually use. /sbin/rsyslogd is the full path to the rsyslogd binary (location different depending on distro). In our case, the command would be `/sbin/rsyslogd -c5 -dn > logfile`

  • press ctrl-C when you have sufficient data (e.g. a device logged a record) NOTE: rsyslogd will NOT stop automatically - you need to ctrl-c out of it!

  • Once you have done all that, you can review logfile. It contains the debug output.

  • When you are done, make sure you re-enable (and start) the background daemon!

If you need to submit the logfile, you may want to check if it contains any passwords or other sensitive data. If it does, you can change it to some consistent meaningless value. Do not delete the lines, as this renders the debug log unusable (and makes Rainer quite angry for wasted time, aka significantly reduces the chance he will remain motivated to look at your problem ;)). For the same reason, make sure whatever you change is change consistently. Really!

Debug log file can get quite large. Before submitting them, it is a good idea to zip them. Rainer has handled files of around 1 to 2 GB. If your’s is larger ask before submitting. Often, it is sufficient to submit the first 2,000 lines of the log file and around another 1,000 around the area where you see a problem. Also, ask you can submit a file via private mail. Private mail is usually a good way to go for large files or files with sensitive content. However, do NOT send anything sensitive that you do not want the outside to be known. While Rainer so far made effort no to leak any sensitive information, there is no guarantee that doesn’t happen. If you need a guarantee, you are probably a candidate for a commercial support contract. Free support comes without any guarantees, include no guarantee on confidentiality [aka “we don’t want to be sued for work were are not even paid for ;)]. So if you submit debug logs, do so at your sole risk. By submitting them, you accept this policy.

Segmentation Faults

Rsyslog has a very rapid development process, complex capabilities and now gradually gets more and more exposure. While we are happy about this, it also has some bad effects: some deployment scenarios have probably never been tested and it may be impossible to test them for the development team because of resources needed. So while we try to avoid this, you may see a serious problem during deployments in demanding, non-standard, environments (hopefully not with a stable version, but chances are good you’ll run into troubles with the development versions).

In order to aid the debugging process, it is useful to have debug symbols on the system. If you build rsyslog yourself, make sure that the -g option is included in CFLAGS. If you use packages, the debug symbols come in their own package. It is highly recommended to install that package as it provides tremendous extra benefit. To do so, do:

yum install rsyslog-debuginfo

Obviously, this is for RPM-based systems, but it’s essentially the same with other packaging systems, just use the native commands. Note that the package may be named slightly different, but it should always be fairly easy to locate.

Active support from the user base is very important to help us track down those things. Most often, serious problems are the result of some memory misaddressing. During development, we routinely use valgrind, a very well and capable memory debugger. This helps us to create pretty clean code. But valgrind can not detect everything, most importantly not code paths that are never executed. So of most use for us is information about aborts and abort locations.

Unfortunately, faults rooted in addressing errors typically show up only later, so the actual abort location is in an unrelated spot. To help track down the original spot, libc later than 5.4.23 offers support for finding, and possible temporary relief from it, by means of the MALLOC_CHECK_ environment variable. Setting it to 2 is a useful troubleshooting aid for us. It will make the program abort as soon as the check routines detect anything suspicious (unfortunately, this may still not be the root cause, but hopefully closer to it). Setting it to 0 may even make some problems disappear (but it will NOT fix them!). With functionality comes cost, and so exporting MALLOC_CHECK_ without need comes at a performance penalty. However, we strongly recommend adding this instrumentation to your test environment should you see any serious problems. Chances are good it will help us interpret a dump better, and thus be able to quicker craft a fix.

In order to get useful information, we need some backtrace of the abort. First, you need to make sure that a core file is created. Under Fedora, for example, that means you need to have an “ulimit -c unlimited” in place.

Now let’s assume you got a core file (e.g. in /core.1234). So what to do next? Sending a core file to us is most often pointless - we need to have the exact same system configuration in order to interpret it correctly. Obviously, chances are extremely slim for this to be. So we would appreciate if you could extract the most important information. This is done as follows:

$ gdb /path/to/rsyslogd
$ core /core.1234
$ info thread
$ thread apply all bt full
$ q # quits gdb

The same method can be applied to a running rsyslog process that suffers from a lock condition. E.g. if you experience that rsyslog is no longer forwarding log messages, but this cannot be reproduced in our lab. Using gdb to review the state of the active threads may be an option to see which thread is causing the problem (e.g. by locking itself or being in a wait state).

Again, basically the same steps can be applied. But, instead of using a core file, we will require the currently used PID. So make sure to acquire the PID before executing gdb.

$ gdb /path/to/rsyslogd
$ attach PID # numerical value
$ info thread
$ thread apply all bt full
$ q # quits gdb

Then please send all information that gdb spit out to the development team. It is best to first ask on the forum or mailing list on how to do that. The developers will keep in contact with you and, I fear, will probably ask for other things as well ;)

Note that we strive for highest reliability of the engine even in unusual deployment scenarios. Unfortunately, this is hard to achieve, especially with limited resources. So we are depending on cooperation from users. This is your chance to make a big contribution to the project without the need to program or do anything else except get a problem solved.

See also

Help with configuring/using Rsyslog:

See also

Contributing to Rsyslog:

Copyright 2008-2023 Rainer Gerhards (Großrinderfeld), and Others.